Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Time for a Self-Assessment :)

These past six weeks have been beautiful in so many ways, but in other ways, I feel like I am going through the hardest time in my life.

Do you mind if I take a couple of minutes to do a self-assessment? I'm guessing that many of you are going through similar things, and maybe if we can go through it together, it won't seem so tricky.

I think one of the things that has made it so hard lately is that I'm not making the time to sit down and write--to step back and process everything that's happening.

I mean, I'm doing good things with my time--things that I've felt directed to do and that help the people around me, but sometimes I feel like my routines and responsibilities come in such quick succession that there's not enough time to really see what I am doing with my life. (Do you ever feel like that?)

I'll start by typing out a little summary of what's been happening around here:

My husband and I work together every day from home.  That's a dream, right? We have a partner desk, and so we face each other while we hold our meetings and type on our computers. We've started recording podcasts together and working on some pretty amazing projects for Power of Moms/Power of Families. He jogs behind me while I rollerblade. He puts me down for naps when I'm cranky. He whistles at me and steals kisses during the day. I'm head-over-heels for him. Our work isn't easy, but we're growing together.

A lot of my time recently has been spent helping my children start the new school year--with special shopping trips for each one (where they learned how to shop on a budget and buy just a few new things they really needed), Back-to-School Night, and all kinds of other little details. We're in a good daily routine now, with morning scripture study and our afternoon smoothie--plus lots of time to talk, prepare meals, and sing together. Our relationships have never been so good.

Every Thursday, we take care of my mom. I've been writing that book I mentioned a few posts back, and each week I hold her hand and read her a new chapter while she rests in her bed. She doesn't seem to understand what I'm reading, but at the end she always smiles and says, "That's so nice!" (A part of one of my chapters was posted on Power of Moms last Tuesday, if you'd like to read it.)

Power of Moms is growing and becoming such a blessing--to my own family and to others. This community is a joint project. I don't take the credit.  But there is something so incredibly powerful happening over there, and I feel an enormous responsibility to do a good job with this. So...we're in the middle of mobilizing/redesigning our site, automating a bunch of systems in our database software, promoting our new webinar series, building Power of Moms Radio, and working on dozens of other projects that fuel the site and community. Honestly, I had no idea what a big job this would be, but it's exciting...and sometimes overwhelming.  :)

I've also been spending quite a bit of time with my calling at church (which I love). I get to be the Personal Progress Coordinator, which means I help the Young Women (ages 12-18) to set and move forward on personal goals. This gives me the opportunity to work closely with Grace and Alia, and I've been creating some new templates and frameworks that will hopefully help the girls to draw closer to Christ--in a way that will have a lasting impact on their lives.

Then there are the more personal systems I've been trying to put in place.  This summer, after being inspired by Jordan Page over at Fun, Cheap, or Free, I completely revamped my spending plan. I thought I was pretty good at budgeting before, but Jordan has helped me to take it to a whole new level. I can't even explain how much this has empowered me.

And after reading The Calorie Myth by Jonathan Bailor, I changed up my diet so I'm now eating 10+ servings of vegetables a day, balanced with lean protein, whole-food fats, and low-fructose fruits, and my body has never felt stronger or happier. (I get to record a podcast with him on Friday, and I'm so excited!) Now I'm trying to get my whole family on board (we're moving in the right direction, but wow, it's a process).

I'm also trying to make time to really be in my scriptures each day. I want to hear the Lord. I need to hear the Lord. He is so, so good to us.

And in the midst of all this, I know He wants me to get enough rest, to read good books, to sit and think, and to realize that everything doesn't have to happen right this minute.

I know I have a good life. I'm living my dream in pretty much every part of it.  

None of it is easy, but I generally feel so grateful and happy.

But here's one element where I need to improve: I need more faith. More faith that the Lord will bless me with the power to do all of these things I feel excited and inspired to do.

I'm guessing that's the hard part for most of us.

In Sunday School a few weeks ago, we read in 1 Kings 17 about the widow who gave Elijah the first portion of her very last bit of food. (Remember that story about the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil that never failed?)

I raised my hand in class and asked how I could better apply that to my life right now. "I feel stretched too thin sometimes," I said. "I wonder if I'll have enough time/energy/patience/ability to do what I feel the Lord wants me to do. How can I better trust in the Lord? How can I know that He will help me?"

And then others in the class started raising their hands in response. At least ten of them. They shared beautiful experiences from their own lives--when they were sure they weren't going to have what they needed, but the Lord came through...every single time.

Something amazing happened as I listened to their stories.

I felt the sweetness of the Spirit tell me that the Lord is totally aware of me. He knows how hard it is for me to move forward each day. He knows how I feel during this whole process of losing my mom. He understands my anxiety over the projects that require so much of my energy, and He recognizes that every day feels like I'm digging into the barrel for that last handful of meal.

But He keeps giving me exactly what I need. He sends mentors and helpers and angels to assist me. He helps me to breathe and to see the vision He has for me. And His Spirit lifts my heart--not so much that I don't have to stretch myself, but enough that I have total confidence that I am not alone.

So that's where I am today. Grateful for Him. Grateful for this life. Hoping that I will one day get to the point where this all doesn't feel so hard, but working desperately to enjoy the process, even while it does.

With love,
April




Monday, July 28, 2014

Richard and Linda Eyres' New Book: The Turning

Richard and Linda Eyre are like a second set of parents to me.

About 15 years ago, I knew them only through their books (which are amazing), but over the past seven years, as I have been running Power of Moms with their oldest daughter, Saren, I have had the chance to really get to know them.

And if there is one thing they absolutely stand for, it is the family.

Well, today is the first day of the launch campaign for their most recent book--The Turning--and I just ordered my copy on Amazon.

If you'd like to learn more about their book or join their book launch team, simply click here!






Sunday, July 27, 2014

EFY "Power of One" Class

Especially for Youth (from this point on written as EFY) is a conference organized by a group of amazing individuals at BYU for youth between the ages of 14 and 18. There are sessions held all over the U.S. (and maybe the world...I'm not sure), and I feel so grateful to have had the chance to be an EFY teacher since 2008.

I first attended EFY when I was 17, and it was honestly a life-changing experience for me.

To dedicate a whole week to spiritual growth and enjoy great friendships with like-minded individuals was empowering, and I always had this secret wish to get to teach there.

Well, back in 2007, our friend John Hilton--who has been involved in EFY for years--came to visit, and he said, "You know, April, there aren't a lot of mothers teaching at EFY. Why don't you apply?"

I'd never even considered the idea before. I didn't even know I could apply. For some reason, I had assumed teachers were chosen by invitation only.

But that little idea took root, and within a couple of months, my application was in.  (There's a funny story that goes with this about how I had to write out my application in little bursts of time because I was nursing Spencer at the time, and it was a period of my life where I rarely changed out of my pajamas...but I did eventually get my application in, and I was thrilled to be accepted.)

This is the Monday evening gathering at the session of EFY I attended this month:


And, really, what made this extra special was having my 14-year-old daughter, Alia, with me this time. In the past, I've gone alone, and it was 100 times better to have Alia there. She came to every class and even helped with one of my classes.  Love her.


Here's my "teacher view" of one of my classes (so fun that the room they assigned me is the EXACT room where Eric and I met 16 years ago).


And just in case any of you are wondering what kinds of things we teach in these classes, I recorded my "Power of One" class and thought I'd include the link here.  (You can click here or on the image below to watch it...)

http://www.anymeeting.com/powerofmoms/E051DC87834B

I'm not sure if my schedule is going to make it possible for me to go back to EFY again, but I'll keep my fingers crossed. It is a fantastic experience, and I feel blessed to have been a part of it.

With love,
April

Friday, July 25, 2014

Introduction to the Book I Need to Write

Dear Friends,

I've been thinking about you a lot lately. I don't know most of you personally, but for those who do comment here on this blog, I feel such a close kinship with you.

In fact, I keep feeling the desire to write here more often--just so I will have the chance to interact with you and learn from your wisdom.

It's amazing how we can gather together online, even when we're living our separate lives in different places around the world. This is a true miracle to me.

Right now I'm in the middle of our family's bustling summer activities.

We got back a couple of hours ago from a pool day with some friends, I just completed some computer work, and I'm heading downstairs in a few minutes to make snacks for my children and tidy the kitchen a bit.

But my heart has been full these past couple of weeks as I've been thinking about the book I need to write this year.

And since everything is quiet right now and the impression to type it here is coming strong, I decided I better pay attention to these feelings.

So here we go...the first draft of the introduction to my book:

____________________________________________________

My mom is currently in the last stages of Alzheimer's. It started a few years ago when she began to forget minor details--like where she put her phone or who had come to visit her that day. Then she started forgetting major things, like how to drive herself home or which bank held all the money she and my dad had saved.

I still remember the first day she couldn't recall the names of all her children--because my name was one that she'd forgotten. And now, as I write, she is in bed full time, with hospice care coming in three days a week because her legs have forgotten how to stand.

With millions of people suffering from Alzheimer's, our situation isn't entirely unique, but I have felt a consistent impression to write this book, and I'd like to explain the "why" a little bit more.

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for my Power of Moms website called "Your Children Want YOU!" That article, which was read by more than two million people, included the first public mention of my mom's memory loss (we didn't know then that it was Alzheimer's).

Since that time, as I have continued to write about our family's experiences and the powerful lessons my mom taught me, I've discovered that the story of her life isn't something I can keep to myself. People who have similar feelings of adoration for their mothers seem to want someone to put words to what they feel. And people who have painful memories of their mothers want to know how they can break the cycle in their own families. (These are brave, beautiful souls.)

So an idea came to me to write a follow-up book--this book--and share the stories that illustrate how my mom exemplified deliberate motherhood and how I am trying so hard to be like her.

As my mom's health slowly declined, I decided to write a chapter at a time and read it to her during my weekly visits.

But as her decline became more rapid, I stopped writing. I felt like I didn't have time and that maybe I should wait until she goes back to God. And then I can write.

But on a recent visit to my mother's bedside, the instructions came clearly:

April, you need to make this record. There is time for you to write. It will be a gift for you to read it to her. And even though she may appear not to know what you are reading, she will know. And she will feel the love you have for her. And she will see clearly that her work in this life has been worth it.

So I am writing--imperfectly at best--because I don't think it is possible to adequately capture the immense love I feel for my mother and for her lasting influence on my life.

But I do what I feel the Lord wants me to do, and I hope through this process, these stories that are so close to my heart will be helpful to you, as well.

With love,
April




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Recording the Ordinary

We just got home tonight after traveling for two weeks as a family. (It feels so great to be in our own little place again!)

Grace had a basketball camp at BYU the first week, and Alia and I attended a conference called "Especially for Youth" the second week (I was a teacher, and she was a participant), 


and in the midst of all that, we spent lots of time with family and friends, attended Eric's high school reunion, and simply enjoyed the beauty of the mountains, lakes, and rivers in Utah.




I don't typically write up vacation details on this blog (because I worry about leaving anyone or anything out), and I always feel like I need to write about "important" things so I don't waste the time of anyone who happens to stop by and read this, but tonight I had the feeling that I need to start recording more of the ordinary (because someday the details of this "ordinary" life might mean more to me than I know).

So here's what happened today:

- We had a ping pong tournament in my sister's basement:


- Then the cousins ran down the street and chased our car while we all waved goodbye.

- We drove for 10 hours to get home--singing our favorite songs for at least three of those hours, reading books and watching movies for a few more hours, stopping for lunch at Cafe Rio, and (of course) Eric let me take a great nap. He's so good to me.

- We also had a wonderful talk on the drive and read through the "Entertainment and Media" section of a little pamphlet from church called "For the Strength of Youth." (You can google it if you want to see what it says.) We talked about how media can be fantastic for helping us learn, communicate, and become better people. And we discussed how easy it can be to get distracted by screens and waste precious time. Today was also the first day I really talked with Spencer about what pornography is. He's only six, but I wanted to start the dialogue now so that he will know which things are appropriate and which things are not.

- I read on Facebook today about a friend of a friend's whose husband of 16 years died in a car accident, and how she and her six children have been so blessed and cared for during this traumatic time. (I can't even imagine...)

I held Eric's hand tight during the whole rest of the drive and thought deeply about how I want to live every day with no regrets--making sure my family members feel my love and doing everything I can to listen to God and be an instrument in His hands. I want to be totally ready to go whenever it is my time.

Yes, it's easy to get caught up in the insignificant details of life, and yes, I am anxious to get our garage organized and our bedroom painted.

But when I really think about what's most important, it's the people I love and the work God wants me to do. (Doesn't that feel so simple?)

So that's my record for now. Hope all of you who are reading this are feeling strong and supported today. I wish we could all just sit around and really talk at the end of each night, but for now, I invite you to share any thoughts you've been having lately, and I will just consider this the next best thing! 

With love,
April



Thursday, June 26, 2014

What I Need to Say About Faith, Power, and Womanhood

I typically stay out of "media firestorms."

It's simply not where I feel my voice is most effective.

I write often about my faith, and I do my best to strengthen families and help people of all religions to find common ground, but I rarely feel the desire or the responsibility to add my words to a flurry of voices--many of which seem to be arguing simply for the sake of arguing.

But this week, the church I love has been prominently featured in mostly all (if not all) of the top media sources--discussing women and the priesthood--and the headlines have made my heart hurt.

I understand that this is the way media works. They grab onto issues that strike at the core of controversial topics, and they write their stories in a way that will generate the most clicks and the most heated debates.

I also understand that there is a lot of deep emotion involved here--and there are women with serious questions and concerns that need to be discussed and resolved.  I am all for calm, meaningful discussions.

It's just that jumping into the middle of a heated debate, where the focus seems to be more on "getting attention" than "getting to the heart of the issue" has never appealed to me.

But the other day, I read this line in one of the articles: "Most Mormon women stay silent on the issue of equality."

And the more I thought and prayed about this, the more I felt that I needed to say something--not in an attempt to throw myself into the craziness out there, but to leave a record for my daughters and granddaughters who may someday wonder where I stood on this subject. I simply can't risk my silence mistakenly communicating the idea that either (1) I don't care or (2) I wasn't allowed to speak. (Neither of which statements are true.)

Today, I am going to share just a little bit of my story and create a simple record of things I know to be true.

In one of the interviews I read, a woman at the heart of this movement said that she had been raised by a mother who said, "one day women will hold the priesthood."

This struck me to be so different than the way my mother (a lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) raised me.

I don't know if she and I ever talked specifically about women and the priesthood, but in essence, her words and actions said this:

"Through our faith in Jesus Christ, both women and men currently have the privilege to receive all of the blessings the Father has for us. There is no need to wait for anything. The power is yours. Now. And I'm going to show you how to access it."

And then she did.

She taught me to pray. She taught me to feast on the scriptures. She taught me to listen to promptings from the Spirit, she taught me to serve others and happily do whatever God asked me to do. She showed me how to work side-by-side with my husband and train my children and turn to the right Source for anything I could ever possibly need.

And as she taught me these things, I was an eyewitness to the fruits of that kind of faith.

Angels minister to my mother. Miracles happen. Her influence and light extends across the globe to millions of people, and there is a beauty and peace and unbelievable power that even the most eloquent words will never come close to describing.

I am a grateful, happy member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I feel 100% equal to my husband (who loves and honors the priesthood he bears) and to every other priesthood holder I have ever known, and I know that my ability to serve within our church is magnified by the priesthood--not diminished. Not once have I felt slighted or unappreciated because I am a woman. Not once.

I feel empowered, cherished, protected, and blessed--and confident beyond measure that the Lord is aware of each of us and wants His sons and daughters to receive every blessing He has for us.

Our church is a living, growing organization. And yes, if the Lord needs to make changes, they will be directed by those given the stewardship to do so. I trust that.

I feel for those who have obviously not had the same experiences I have had. I in no way mean to diminish their pain or their situations by sharing my opposite view, but in all the areas I have lived--coast to coast--the experiences I have shared above have been the rule--not the exception.

So to my daughters and granddaughters, please know that I have absolute confidence in the way our church is organized. Please remember that you are a cherished child of God, and that your potential to influence and strengthen the world is limitless. And please do everything in your power to carry on the legacy of faith that is your privilege to carry.


I am leaving the comments open on this post, and I am happy to answer any questions those who are reading this might have. I do ask that all comments and questions be written respectfully, in a way that generates helpful discussion.

With love,
April

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Lifted

My mom is declining. And it's happening faster than I thought it would.

She's sleeping about 20 hours a day now. Her legs won't let her stand. She's forgotten how to write her name. She needs to be reminded to swallow.

But there's something powerful happening that I felt I needed to record tonight.

I'm being lifted.

This morning when I woke up and thought about the various challenges that are hurting my heart (my mom's situation at the forefront), I whispered, "I can't do this. It's too much. I'm not strong enough."

But a couple of hours later, during the closing hymn at church, we sang this:

Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed.
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand.
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.

At that moment, the message was for me, and I heard this:

I'll help you, April. You don't need to be afraid. I am with you. Trust me. I have never let you down.

And those words stayed with me all afternoon...as I thought about how I will say goodbye, as I considered how to start the conversation with my dad about "final arrangements," and as I spoke with my mom briefly on the phone (I could feel what she was trying to say, but all I could hear were partial sentences and slurred words).

Then tonight I was given two tender mercies.

The first was from Grace, who could see my tears as we got Spencer's room straightened up before getting him into bed.

"It'll be okay, Mom," she said. "I mean, would you rather have grandma remember nothing and be with you physically--or remember everything and be with you spiritually?"

Her wisdom touched my heart, and I turned to her and opened my arms. We just stood together in the center of the room, hugging each other tight.

Then Alia went into the office and started printing something off the computer, and after I reminded her it was time to get to bed, she said, "One minute...you're going to like this."

The next thing I knew, she was downstairs playing a simplified version of "Blue Moon," the song my mom used to always play on the piano.

I stood at the top of the stairs--mesmerized--and watched her play--thinking about how blessed I am to have children who know exactly how to take care of me. If there was one song in the world that had the power to calm my heart tonight, that was it.

When I walked to the bottom of the stairs, she stopped and pointed to another piece of sheet music. "I printed the harder version for you."

Now, let me stop here for a moment to explain that I have heard my mom play Blue Moon for 36 years, and I have never once been able to play it myself. She didn't have the sheet music, and I never took the time when she was healthy to ask her to teach it to me. When I have tried to pick it out on the piano (watching videos of her and attempting to copy her hands), I've ended up totally frustrated.

But tonight when I sat down to play the music Alia had found, it was the exact same key and the exact same music my mom has been playing all these years.

I am not much of a pianist, but here's a little video in case you'd like to hear it:



I don't know how much longer my mom has, and I don't have a clear understanding of everything this process is supposed to teach me, but I am absolutely certain that the Lord is aware of our needs. And just as He is lifting me and my family during this time, I have zero doubts that He will do the same for you.

Much love,
April



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